One person’s difficulty capturing their wave pool sessions leads to new AI photography system

After years of regularly surfing at URBNSURF in Melbourne, Australia, Luke Wallace noticed a problem. Surfers, such as himself, did not have an efficient way to capture video of their sessions.

Still photography was nice, but got repetitive and was not always consistent due to human error. To capture video, Luke and others would set up smartphones on tripods to film their sessions, leading to gargantuan, hour-long video files that were difficult to share and time-consuming to edit. 

There had to be a better way. Instead of looking for imperfect solutions that didn’t fully address the problem, Wallace decided to leave his well-paying tech job to assemble a team and fix it himself. With a background working in the technology sector and hundreds of sessions logged at URBNSURF, he was uniquely qualified to devise a solution. 

Wallace founded Flowstate to create a new technology that leverages AI to capture and clip all your waves surfed during a session. URBNSURF was so impressed with the product that they reached an agreement with Flowstate and just launched the technology in their pool on June 10th.

Here’s how it works: Within minutes of finishing your session at URBNSURF, you can go on their website and find all your waves clipped in HD. You select the surfer whose waves you want to purchase and for $25 Australian dollars (USD $17) you can download all your waves from the session. Gone are the hassles of organizing clips, storing large files, and editing hours of footage.

The setup at URBNSURF currently includes two static HD cameras, one for the left and one for the right (they are looking to add a second angle in the summer). Even though the cameras do not physically pan, they utilize AI to track and follow the surfer within the frame.

Adding a product like Flowstate is attractive for wave pools because it not only enhances customer experience, but it creates a new source of income. 

“Having the visibility [on your surfing] fires something up inside you to want to go do it again,” said Wallace. “It amplifies the customer experience, drives loyalty, and adds an additional revenue stream to the business.”

URBNSURF General Manager Shaun Hutchinson can attest to the added value to the pool. 

“The way the technology captures every surfer without the need for additional hardware (wristbands or beacons) as well as the zooming, panning and editing of the footage, it’s the best we’ve seen in the industry,” Hutchinson told Wavepool Mag. “Additionally, the data captured to analyze consumer behavior in the lagoon is next level – it is awesome the see the average number of waves caught in session, per side.”

And access to all your waves is just the beginning. The technology will soon grow to include video coaching from Andy King (coach of Gabriel Medina and Tyler Wright) as well as automated highlight videos. 

Flowstate is not the first player in the space with the idea of automating the recording of wave pool sessions. Surfline, for example, is one of several companies entering the market with similar products. However, according to Wallace, Flowstate has key differentiation that gives it an edge and makes it difficult to copy. 

“From what I understand the [other competitors vying for a contract with URBNSURF] were all hardware based – you needed a tracking device, a wristwatch, or an RFID tag,” explained Wallace. “We’ve gone about solving the problem just using computer vision and AI. It creates operational efficiencies for the wave parks. If you look at their businesses, their two biggest costs are people and power – the electricity it takes to fire [the waves] and the amount of staff they’ve got to have on board operating. So if you can create a product that doesn’t revolve around having a team of people to service it, I think you’re going to be in a really good position to be a favorable vendor for some facilities.”

“And the actual AI technology is really complicated stuff,” Wallace added. “You need to have that kind of specialist to dedicate the time, effort, and resources into solving those problems, which is a significant investment. Then there’s the actual customer experience and the product. It needs to be really slick and easy to use.” 

Wallace is tight-lipped about where Flowstate will appear next but he hints there are a few deals in the works and they are in conversations with “anyone who has a pool”. 

“Now wave pools will be able to actually see the product in the market, how it works, and that it’s not just some fancy slides on a deck,” said Wallace. “Hopefully we’ll have many more soon.”

So, don’t be surprised if your Instagram feed soon becomes flooded with URBNSURF content. At the time of writing this story, they’ve already clipped 27,000 waves. Having quality footage of your pool session is on its way to becoming a standard part of the experience, instead of a luxury.  

Endless Surf 2023A